Wednesday, 16 September 2009

More on FEAR and the real impact of poverty

I saw this comment by 'Ruth Ray' in May 2008. It is wonderfully eloquent and concise. I am reproducing it here because it backs up my theory on the impact of Fear (see and because it also backs up my theories on the impact of changes in the UK economy away from unskilled industries towards service industries, and the impact of living in a rough area in a tiny flat.

OK it's only anecdotal, not a scientific paper, and I'm biased because I'm not printing any counterfactual. That's my prerogative, so bite me. The original can be found at along with a typical spread of right-wing moronic comments. Where you see bold I added it for emphasis.

"I have a friend who is a single mum, like most - not through choice but due to marital breakdown. Did you know that domestic violence kills more women aged between 19 and 44 than anything else? Like many she would love to have the strength and support of a loving and caring partner - but such eligible men are few and far between and her experience has taught her caution. As she said to me once, 'I would never trust another man with my kids.'

My friend fled a violent marriage with her young children and is one of the toughest mothers I know. She certainly doesn't 'spare the rod' with them. They also have a strong faith life. But in their neighbourhood gangs rule. Drugs and violence are commonplace. My friends kids are now well into teen-age. There are no secular clubs or innocent activities for the young people in that area and my friend's sons (who are my 'honorary grandsons') are tempted to carry knives because of their real fears. They have started to stay out late and both my friend and I are very worried.

The boys are taller and stronger than their mother. She can't force them to do anything. As far as she knows they do not carry knives � but while they don't own 'designer weapons' there are vegetable knives in the kitchen quite sharp enough to act as a lethal weapon. You can't lock teenage kids up in a cramped house, with nothing but the television, and expect them to stay healthy or sane. But the streets and gangs round there are crazy. The boys don't want to get into gang life but they have to have some friends.

I was reading all these blogs to see how best to advice my 'honorary grandsons' and to be honest I've found it depressing. So much hot air, prejudice and ignorance. So much total ignorance about what the real life for families like this is like. The most useful comment for me on the blogs here is that 'everyone needs a sense of belonging.' In the inner cities this comes from gang membership. If someone like my 'grandsons' lives in a gang-dominated district they will be bullied if they don't join a local gang - and that means real danger as well as social isolation. But if they join the gang they are likely to get dragged in to many activities � including crime and being around people who carry knives � or guns - which they do not want to be involved with. And once involved in a gang it is almost impossible to get out again. Breathe a word about anything you know to the police and you put your entire family at risk from every gang in the district.

Fear is the controlling force. I read recently that studies of youngsters in prison showed over 40% had been pressured by gangs into their crimes and had no wish at all to do those things - but they did not know how to get their lives free. This is an area which needs a lot of study and effective action.

My friend survives on benefits and lives in a council house. She would love to move, to live in a 'good' area with a house big enough for her kids to have their own room and a garden. She's been trying to get an exchange for over 10 years. She would love a job that paid enough to run a car so she could take the kids out sometimes even on holiday - but her priority is to be a good mother and make sure she is at least there for the kids when they get home from school and they all can sit down for a meal together in the evening. As she says - the kids are her responsibility. If she's not there for them, no-one else will be. Her 'life' can start when they're grown.

My grandsons would like to get work. An income would give pride and prestige as well as opening up possibilities of travel and escape from the ghetto life. But unskilled jobs are few and far between for young lads with no experience, poor education, no transport and the handicap of an unsavoury post-code. If anyone has any genuine answers to this dilemma or any tried and tested good advice for me, my friend or my grandsons I would welcome it.

I think that it is an idea to remember the Native American proverb, 'Never criticise anyone until you have walked a mile in his moccasins' I think the African proverb is also pertinent - 'It takes a whole village to raise a child.' My own view is that there are no simple answers. But the more we can work with real people and real situations and not indulge ourselves by repeating false and facile generalisations, the more hope of finding a genuine and effective way forward. "

No comments:

Post a Comment